Ramiz Ramazanov, a majoritarian member of the Municipal Council (Sakrebulo) in the southern town of Dmanisi, who recently quit the opposition United National Movement party supported the Georgian Dream to elect its candidate, Paata Kuliashvili as Sakrebulo chair, while himself becaming Kuliashvili’s first deputy. UNM earlier said Ramazanov had been coerced by the ruling party to switch sides.
With the number of members split 15-15 between GD and the opposition, the ruling party needed the support of one councilor to elect the chairperson. Ramazanov was the only opposition councillor present at the today’s session and his vote was enough for Georgian Dream to elect its pick as the chairperson.
Following recent reports about pressure exerted on him by the ruling party, Ramazanov told reporters today that he would quit the UNM and continue his work at the Sakrebulo as an independent member.
He cited “a political deadlock” in the Dmanisi Municipality and the accountability to his voters as the reason behind attending the today’s session, denying any pressure by the ruling party.
Paata Kuliashvili, the newly elected chairman of the Dmanisi Sakrebulo, also denied the reports about coercion and threats against Ramazanov, denouncing opponents’ allegations as “absurd.”
Commenting on Ramazanov’s election as his deputy, Kuliashvili said GD allocated the position to the opposition member and that Ramazanov was the one to express readiness to assume it.
“What happened at the Sakrebulo session today was absolutely fair. Everybody saw clearly that nothing illegal is happening here,” Koba Muradashvili, the freshly elected Dmanisi Mayor told reporters.
The UNM again alleged that GD pressured Ramazanov to get this outcome.
Levan Moseshvili, UNM’s Dmanisi Sakrebulo member told government-critical Mtavari Arkhi TV that following “pressure” and “isolation,” Ramazanov, accompanied by police officers, was brought to the Dmanisi Sakrebulo building from a backdoor.
Moseshvili said the GD elected Ramazanov pro forma as the first deputy chair to justify the misery brought upon him, adding that the decision aims to deceive the public as if Ramazanov agreed to the position on his own.
The reports about possible coercion and threats emerged two days ago, when the United National Movement announced that the ruling party tried to bribe and then intimidate Ramazanov to switch sides. The party also claimed that Ramazanov had been isolated against his will.
Voicing concern over the reported developments surrounding Ramazanov, six local civil society outfits suspected the Georgian Dream aimed to “politically harass” the councilor to gain his support. The organizations called on the authorities to protect Ramazanov’s “security, freedom and dignity.”